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After Further Review: Explosive Pass Plays Increase

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teddy Bridgewater combined spreading the ball around the field for explosive gains Sunday in his 11th start.

He set a franchise record for starts by a rookie QB and matched his high for completions of 20 or more yards with six such plays against the Dolphins (he also had six against the Falcons).

Three differences for Bridgewater in Sunday's game from the six completions of 20 or more yards in his first career start against Atlanta were: it was a road game, Miami has allowed 40 such plays this season, compared to 55 by Atlanta, and he incorporated five different players for the explosive plays, which was two more than against the Falcons.

Bridgewater had completions of 40 yards to Rhett Ellison (37 came after the catch), 25 to Charles Johnson, 24 and a 21-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings, 22 to Chase Ford and 20 to Jarius Wright.

The plays included throws with pinpoint accuracy from the pocket (the TD to Jennings and the pass to Wright) to convert third downs, a strike thrown on the run to Johnson and a smart decision with the football to Ellison.

Bridgewater has often distributed the ball to multiple receivers, tight ends and running backs in games this season, but the increase in explosive plays shows the rapport that he's developing with receivers and increased comfort in Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner's system. He completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) and had a passer rating of 114.1.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the positives for Bridgewater counteracted his disappointment in the defense's uncharacteristic performance in which they allowed 23 points in the fourth quarter (more than they've allowed to opponents in eight full games this season).

"I thought Bridgewater played excellent," Zimmer said. "(Four) weeks in a row he's over 70 percent, the quarterback rating was what, 114 yesterday? That brings a lot of hope, because at some point in time, I will get this defense fixed. It may not be this week, it may not be until middle of the year, but it will get fixed you can bet your butt on that."

It was the third time in four games that Bridgewater has had a passer rating of 114 or higher, and the Vikings have scored at least 30 points in each of those games.

"It's as simple as not committing penalties and not turning the ball over, being successful on third downs, putting yourself in good situations to have short third downs," Matt Kalil said. "I think the last five games, you can tell our offense is playing better, and we're starting to play well in Norv's system. He's a great offensive coordinator and once we kind of get things clicking on all cylinders, it could be a great offense."

The Vikings have connected for 10 of their 40 total pass plays of at least 20 yards in the past two weeks and will finish the season against a Bears defense that has allowed 62 pass plays of at least 20 yards this season, which is the second-most in the NFL, when Chicago (5-10) visits Minnesota (6-9) at noon (CT) Sunday.

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